Thanks to the various unique adventures that come along for us gamers to enjoy, we are often spoilt for choice, even if gaming is a media that enjoys a good trend from time to time. For years we had zombies, then we had the rogue-lite adventures, and now we’ve moved on to the ever-popular Battle Royale – the new hybrid genre that mixes shooting with a Last-Man-Standing type experience. With Fortnite, PUBG, Realm Royale and even Call of Duty already enjoying a steady fight for the title of best Battle Royale game, we certainly aren’t short of options, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to see a late challenger attempt to compete for the throne. Apex Legends, the recent surprise release from the guys over at Respawn Entertainment, is that game.
For those unaware of Apex Legends, this title is the latest game to come from the fantastic minds at Respawn Entertainment, the studio responsible for the rather awesome Titanfall series – with Apex Legends being set in that very same Titanfall universe.
This time though, you won’t find hulking Titans thumping down into battle from the skies, and you won’t find a team of players wall-running like professionally trained parkour enthusiasts gunning for the kill. Essentially this is a stripped back Titanfall experience that brings in Respawn’s own twist to the trendy Battle Royale mode.
Unlike other games in the genre however, Apex Legends is a strict – for now at least – three-man team game. You can of course go in as a solo player and matchmake with two others, and you can jump in with a friend and find another lone player tagging along for the ride once you’re in, but the general gist of it at present is that you won’t find solo, duo or your typical four-man squad scenario here. This also sees the player count tied at 60 players, with 20 three-man teams jumping in from the start to vie for a place on top come the end.
So far, so Battle Royale.
At the start of each game, players can choose from eight unique characters, or ‘Legends’ as they are better known in-game, although two will need to be unlocked with in-game currency that is earned swiftly through gameplay or with real money. All of the Legends featured are very reminiscent in presentation to that of other hero protagonists in games such as Paladins or Overwatch, with each Legend bringing their own unique passive and active skills, along with an all-powerful game changing ability that can be used to change the tide of battle if necessary.
A personal favourite Legend of choice is the Pathfinder thanks to his ability to place zip-lines throughout the map, allowing teammates to traverse anywhere and everywhere. That and his very obvious appearance similarities to that of the popular Marvin robots from Titanfall 1 and 2.
Other notable options however include the sassy Lifeline, the Medic, who can call in supply drops to bring valuable resources and a personal drone to heal teammates, and Wraith who can escape danger through use of a portal, or even create two portals for teammates to pass between if needed.
When picking your character though, it’s important to note the choice of your teammates, as picking a team with a decent variety of skills is a must if you hope to have a chance of winning come the end. This is helped on Respawn’s part by allowing players to take it in turns to choose their characters and that proves to be a good decision too, as you don’t immediately see everyone racing to their favourite choice.
After picking your characters and reaching the dropship, you’re almost ready. You’re above the battlefield, and all that is left is for one member of your team to be labelled the Jumpmaster before you head down into battle. Being Jumpmaster isn’t a game changing role, but if you’re chosen then it’s up to you to guide your three-man team to the ground safely. Of course, you can always break away and go down solo if you decide not to follow the route of your Jumpmaster, but that means breaking away from the team; in a game that plays so well with teamwork, going it alone is as good as a death sentence.
Once on the ground, Apex Legends shows just why it’s more than yet another Battle Royale game. Firstly, the map isn’t like those you’ll see in PUBG or Fortnite, and even though there is a circled area you’ll need to stay in whilst a wall of death closes in, you won’t find all those bright and vibrant sceneries to glare at here – the same as you won’t find vast open areas from which to spot your enemy from a mile away. Instead you’ll be battling within a worn down, once lived in futuristic landscape of which buildings and large obstructive rock formations are found. These can be explored at will to find the ideal items for your loadout or to hide away from your opponents.
In Apex Legends though, success is rarely found by hiding away in buildings. Instead it’s all about hunting out your competition before they find you, and taking your momentum with you as you move from area to area, aiming to be the best of the rest within the arena styled map. You won’t survive by simply hiding it out with your squad until the end, and this is only hit home further by the billboards that fill the arena, flaunting the current Kill Leader for all to see, as well as the Champion – the player most likely to win.
To keep you in the hunt for the win, Apex Legends comes with a rather typical-for-Respawn control scheme, with the left stick used for moving and sprinting, A to jump, B for crouch and holding B giving the perfected sprint slide that Titanfall players are so enamoured with. Essentially Apex Legends is as you’d expect for a first-person shooter, but it goes without saying that the fluidity of the controls does make the experience feel a lot more wholesome than say that of Call of Duty and its Blackout mode. This is something again that has been perfected previously with the Titanfall games and it’s refreshing to see that Respawn Entertainment have incorporated it perfectly into Apex Legends.
There are times though in which no matter how well you plan your game, no matter how in-tune you are with the controls, and no matter how many tricks you have up your sleeve, you’re going to end up on the wrong side of a perfectly executed shot from a hardworking team equally desperate for the win. It’s these moments from which Apex Legends begins to separate itself from the rest of the Battle Royale pack, with death bringing a notable change.
See, should you be with a team of communicating players who want the win just as desperately as you do, death doesn’t have to be the end. Instead, after being taken down, players have the opportunity to pick up their deceased teammate’s banner from their ‘death box’ and take it to a respawn point in order to get them back in the game. What makes this so unique is that whilst you may spend a part of the game as a limited one or two-man team, it only takes the right bit of luck, focus and determination to see you back as a complete package with every member once more able to gun for the victory; something which can be game-changing.
Possibly the best feature within Apex Legends though is the remarkable ping system, allowing you to get every important piece of information to your teammates without ever having to actually speak a word. This works by alerting players to whatever items, locations, enemies or points of interest fellow teammates have pointed out. To mark something – or ping it – players must simply tap the RB button with the cross hair aimed at the point of interest and the ping system will kick into play by alerting your teammates to whatever it is you are looking at, describing it for the other players as well as highlighting it on their screen. For example, should you be looking at a Level 1 helmet, and you don’t need it, but your teammates might, simply ping it and you’ll find your teammates alerted to all the information they need as well as the exact location so they can grab it for themselves. It’s a little addition that makes a hell of a change.
What’s even better is that it takes the need for party chat away when it comes to communicating with your team and that means that jumping into play with complete randoms online is no longer as frustrating as it usually is. It’s also worth noting how incredibly responsive it is, working perfectly every time.
Despite all the positives though, there are a few negative points to note. The first being the appearance and whilst the in-game visuals match the incredibly high standards we’ve become accustomed to with Respawn, the menus are messy and not exactly the easiest to understand. It doesn’t take long to pick up of course but when you jump into a new game the least you expect is to be able to understand everything, especially when that game intends to be a big force in multiplayer gaming, a feat that is obviously the target of Apex Legends.
The next disappointment is the fact that players fortunate enough to come across the best armour are likely to be the ones that end your game time after time thanks to an unthinkable amount of ‘bullet-sponging’ taking place. This isn’t something you’ll come across often as the very best armour is rare to find in any game, and when combined with the satisfying shooting mechanics which are as believable as you’d hope, it’s not a game killer, but the highest armour is slightly unbalanced and the ammo not exactly free-flowing. It’s irritating when you find yourself running a good game only to be stopped by someone who won’t go down no matter how many bullets you empty into them.
Ending on a positive though and Apex Legends on Xbox One has done one thing that many never expected from anything with an EA association, and that is to have a friendlier approach to loot boxes. Yes, they are in the game, and yes they cost real money, but Apex Legends is in no way a pay to win experience. Instead there are some catchy cosmetics to be had if you dish out the cash, but nothing that will make the experience any less engaging or competitive for those who decide to stay away.
Apex Legends is without a doubt a fantastic game. It may be lacking a solo or duo option, and it may have a few very niggling issues, but all-in-all it’s a fantastic addition to the Battle Royale genre. Die-hard PUBG or Fortnite fans may not be pushed into becoming keen players, but for anyone looking for a refreshing approach to a fluid, fast and tactical Battle Royale experience, Apex Legends is the game you want to be getting involved in.